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U.S. Softens Mexico Travel Alert

From Associated Press

The United States and Mexico sought to defuse their spat over a U.S. alert about drug-gang violence along the border, issuing a joint statement Saturday in which Washington said its announcement was not meant to keep Americans from traveling south of the border.

Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez and U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza met over breakfast, the joint statement said, to review actions taken by the Mexican government to combat organized crime in northern Mexico, where a surge in killings and kidnappings has been linked to battles between drug gangs.

Garza, the statement said, insisted that the State Department announcement did not recommend that Americans avoid traveling to Mexico, only that they take precautions in specific areas.

The State Department issued the alert last week. It told U.S. citizens that violent crimes, including killings and kidnappings, had increased along the Mexican side of the border. Mexican officials said the alert was an exaggeration.

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The State Department alert was accompanied by a letter from Garza saying that the lack of security near the U.S. border could have a “chilling” effect on trade and tourism.

On Saturday, Garza said his letter was intended to give “fuller context” and “highlight the fact that the wave of border violence is a result of the successful efforts of President Fox’s administration in the fight against organized crime.” He said Mexico had increased federal law enforcement operations in the border region with support from the Mexican army in its effort to combat organized crime.

Garza, nevertheless, restated deep U.S. concern for the safety of American citizens in the border region.

“Both officials noted that their governments recognize that drug trafficking and associated crime do not recognize any borders,” the joint statement said.

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